Travel Insurance and Credit Cards – what you need to know

Before your fly, check your insurance

It’s imperative for travellers to have a full understanding of their Travel Insurance Policies prior to heading off on their adventures.

Certain credit cards that have Travel Insurance Policies included as part of their offering sometimes have many limitations and exclusions that may cause heartache if not understood prior to departure.

There are many insurance products that are attached to credit cards that sometimes don’t provide adequate coverage. As travellers, we need to ensure that the coverage matches our expectations.

Some of the limitations of the credit card insurance policies don’t provide coverage for:

  • Terrorism related events
  • Certain international travel destinations

Certain policies are limited to provide coverage for medical expenses only and are often also priced accordingly.

Also, if you find yourself in a position where you need to make a travel claim here are some “tips” that may assist:

  • Get it down on paper – if you’re a victim of a flight or hotel cancellation or delay be sure to obtain written proof of such events from your airline and/or provider.
  • Keep receipts – Your insurer will require proof of payment/booking in order to settle your claim. Retaining boarding passes,

receipts or credit card statements further assist.

As always, contacting us, your broker, to advise of details of any potential claim with proof at your earliest opportunity will ensure prompt settlement of claims.

Further, by allowing us to view your existing coverage, prior to departure, will also allow for any “shortfalls or inadequacies” to be identified and the appropriate coverage obtained.

Don’t let the silly season get the better of you

Tips for keeping your home safe over Christmas

  1. Make your home less attractive to thieves.

Do this by investing in outdoor lighting and other visual deterrents such as alarms and CCTV cameras. If you are away for a period of time over the festive season, make it look like the house is still occupied.

  1. Check your alarm is in working order

Make sure your home alarm is in good working order prior to leaving for holidays.

  1. Protect your valuables

Never leave valuables in sight and consider investing in a safe for additional protection.

  1. Keep your presents safe

Expensive gifts on show under the tree are an invitation for burglars, as is any gift packaging left outside the home advertising any new and expensive items inside.

  1. Watch your posts on social media

Avoid publishing your holiday plans on social media.

  1. Position Christmas decorations strategically

Be aware of where you position your Christmas decorations, keeping in mind you want to ensure windows or doors are not obstructed.

  1. Leaving windows open

It may be warm and it’s tempting to keep the home open, but be aware of leaving windows and doors without security screens, open in empty rooms, especially if you are entertaining at the back of the house.

BREAK OUT: CHRISTMAS PARTY PLANNING

During the silly season there are plenty of things to think about, including if your office premises are safe and secure in the lead up to and during the holiday closure time.

The office Christmas party is always an opportunity to celebrate a successful year, but an important aspect to consider is the wellbeing of staff during Christmas parties.

Some things to consider include:

  • Health and safety of those attending
  • A clear end time
  • Do not endorse after parties
  • Ensure you have adequate insurance coverage
  • Alcohol – ensure there is RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) in place, particularly for a private party and ensure there are non-alcoholic options available
  • Consider transport options for staff to leave safely
  • Have a plan in place for any incidents
  • Review your office policies, particularly surrounding bullying, discrimination and adverse action and remind staff of these prior to the event.

Christmas Safety

Tis the season to avoid online scammers

In a bid to avoid Christmas crowds, online shopping during the festive season is very appealing. And while the ease and

convenience of shopping from the comfort of home is a positive, it’s still important to be aware of simple security measures to ensure it’s not the season to be scammed.

During heavy shopping periods such as Christmas, the risk of online fraud and scams increases.

 

Heritage Bank has provided some simple tips to help you stay safe while shopping online during the Christmas period.

  • Protect your privacy – When you shop online, only include relevant information and check privacy policy and security of sites you visit.
  • Read all the fine print – This includes

refund and complaints handling policies. Are there any hidden costs you’ll be hit with at the check-out? There could be conversion costs (for international purchases) or hidden fees.

  • Don’t overshare on social media – Check your social media privacy settings. Do not post personal information that will put you at risk.
  • Reject Scam callers – Financial

institutions will never make unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal banking details or card details, so always check with your provider.

  • Be alert to ‘romance scams’ – Over the Christmas and New Year period in

particular romance scams cause millions of dollars of loss to Australians.

  • Don’t send your bank or credit card

details via email to pay for purchases – Only pay via a secure web page that has a valid digital certificate. It should have a

padlock symbol and an address starting with https://

For more details about reporting and identifying scams and fraud, visit the SCAMWATCH and Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network websites.

House deposits – is Airbnb the answer? New company offering down payments with a catch

Down payment with a catch

It’s getting harder and harder for many to enter the housing market, but a new start-up in America is making it a little easier for those wanting to purchase a home…but it comes with a catch.

A 29-year-old entrepreneur from Seattle, Yifan Zhang has come up with a service, called Loftium, which fronts up the cash for a down payment on a home with a proviso they continuously list their extra bedroom on Airbnb for one to three years and share the income with the company.

Zhang told New York Times the concept came about when she and her husband

purchased a home in Seattle and looked into renting the spare bedroom to generate extra income. But when she learned the amount could cover her mortgage or sometimes more each month, she decided to start up Loftium.

The company provides prospective home-buyers in Seattle with up to $50,000 for a down payment as long as the extra bedroom is listed continuously on Airbnb for one to three years and the majority of income is shared with Loftium during this time.

The start-up determines the size of the down payment its willing to put up through an algorithm that predicts how much income a room can generate.

The company then collects around two-thirds of the income, leaving the home-owner to take home part of the profit as well.

And if the room doesn’t generate the expected income (provided it’s not directly the result of the homeowner through bad reviews/lack of availability etc), the homeowner is not out of pocket and there is no expectation to pay the money back.

The concept is fine if you are willing to open your home to travellers in order to get in the housing market.

While Loftium currently only operates in Seattle, the company has plans to branch out to more cities within a year and it’s only a matter of time before a similar operation starts up in Australia.

Airbnb – what are your rights?

Do you have rights to share your home?

Airbnb has become a central player in the sharing economy in the last decade. While its usage has presented opportunities to ease the financial burden of a mortgage, there are legal implications that hosts of strata-titled properties should be aware of.

In a recent case of Estens v Owners Corporation SP 11825 [2017] NSWCATCD 52, the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) found that strata by-laws which prohibited short term letting, like Airbnb, were invalid.

In this case, Ms Estens took the owner corporation of her apartment building to NCAT after it passed a by-law which prohibited short term letting as a result of a complaint by one of Ms Estens’ neighbours about the conduct of Ms Estens’ Airbnb guests.

Ms Estens argued that the by-law was invalid because it prohibited or restricted the dealing of a lot or transfer, lease, mortgage and infringed section 139(2) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (NSW) (SSMA).

NCAT concluded that an Airbnb letting constituted a tenancy or lease as it had specific commencement and end dates and gave the tenant exclusive use of the property. It found that the by-law prohibited or restricted the dealing of a lease and was therefore invalid by reason of section 139(2) of the SSMA.

This decision seems in conflict with that of the Western Australian Supreme Court in Byrne v The Owners of Ceresa River Apartments Strata Plan 55597 [2017] WASCA 104, which had considered the WA equivalent of section 139(2) yet upheld a by-law prohibiting short term letting. However, it is consistent with the decision of Owners Corporation PS 501391P v Balcombe [2016] VSC 384, in which the

Supreme Court of Victoria found that owner corporations did not have authority to ban short term letting.

In Queensland, strata property is governed by the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997. However, there have been no cases which deal directly with Airbnb and strata property.

What arises out of the above cases is that there is currently no uniform approach across the country as to whether owners of strata property can rent out their homes on Airbnb, if in contravention of a strata by-law.

It seems that the wording of the by-law might be important in deciding whether it infringes the equivalent section 139(2) provisions in the various state legislations that deal with strata property.

It is suggested that owners of strata property review their Body Corporate by-laws before renting out their homes on Airbnb to ensure that they comply with any legal obligations.

Cyclone season is upon us

That’s not a cyclone…this is a cyclone

Although the effects of Cyclones Debbie, Yasi, Marcia and Larry are generally well known, these are dwarfed by Cyclone Mahina.

Cyclone Mahina is the deadliest cyclone in recorded Australian history, striking Bathurst Bay in Cape York on the 4th March 1899, with its destructive winds and storm surge combining to kill over 400 people. Thankfully, storms like this occur extremely rarely, with research by scientists finding that “on average”’ super cyclones occur in the region only once every two or three centuries.

A pearling fleet was anchored in or near the bay before the storm, but within an hour the fleet had either been driven ashore, onto the reef, or sunk at their anchorages.

A storm surge, reportedly 13 metres high, swept across Princess Charlotte Bay and then 5 kilometres inland destroying anything left of the fleet and the settlement. Apart from the sailors, around 100 indigenous

Australians were killed, but as indigenous people were not counted as part of the population at the time, no accurate numbers are known. Tragically, they had tried to help the shipwrecked survivors, but the back surge caught them and swept them away.

Thousands of fish and some sharks and

dolphins were found several kilometres inland and on Flinders Island, dolphins were found on the 15.2 metre cliffs.

The cyclone continued southwest over Cape York Peninsula, emerging into the Gulf of Carpentaria before doubling back and dissipating on the 10th March. Measuring cyclones is a complicated task as the biggest or strongest are often not the most

destructive, but one good measure of

intensity is pressure.

The lower the pressure, the more air gets sucked into the cyclone and this ultimately results in more power. A study in 2014, found the lowest pressure of around 880 hectopascals for Mahina, based upon modelling of meteorological variables needed to induce the world record setting surge height…by comparison, Cyclone Yasi was 930 hectopascals.

Hopefully, we won’t see anything like Cyclone Mahina in 2017/18, but Queensland, and more particularly North Queensland, is facing another nervous cyclone season, with weather forecasters predicting a dozen cyclones could form off the Australian coast this summer. Of those, up to four could cross the Queensland coast, but even tropical cyclones which do not make the coast can still have a significant impact on coastal communities. Heavy rainfall causing major flooding, storm surges causing coastal inundation and destructive winds causing damage to property and infrastructure are a common occurrence.

 

BREAK OUT:

The State Emergency Service recommend having an Emergency Kit ready for storm season that contains essential items you may need during and after a severe storm.

An Emergency Kit contains essential items that you and other members of your household may need during and after a severe storm.

New ID Scanning Laws – what you need to know

The new ID scanning laws came into effect in Queensland from 1 July 2017. The purpose of these laws is to identify individuals who are the subject of banning orders to the various licenced pubs, nightclubs and bars around town.

In short, all licensed venues that ordinarily trade past midnight in the Safe Night Precincts, including the CBD and Fortitude Valley, are required to have approved ID scanners installed at each entry point to their venue. They are also required to scan the ID of all patrons entering their premises after 10pm, with some exceptions being hotel guests and people attending functions at the venue.

The scanners are linked to an approved ID scanning system which allows the cross-checking of an individual’s ID to any known bans held by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.

The concern for many people is the retention and use of their personal information obtained through these ID scanners. To address this issue, the scanning system will automatically delete the scanned information after 30 days and access to the scanned data is restricted, with the scanning system keeping a record of all those that log on to the system. Further, all licensed venues must still comply with their obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) in relation to the protection of personal information recorded by the scanners, which includes compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

Venues may only use personal information for the primary purpose for which it is collected.

It may also use the information in other limited circumstances, such as direct marketing, but must make patrons aware of the intended use of the personal information, and give patrons the option of not receiving the direct marketing, at the time of collection.

If an individual suspects there has been a privacy breach of their personal information they can first lodge a complaint to the venue directly and thereafter a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner if they believe the venue has not appropriately dealt with the complaint within 30 days of receiving it. For more information visit the Queensland Government website

Travel Insurance Review

The Insurance market is reviewing cover in respect to mental illness. At the time of writing, some policies specifically exclude mental illness whilst others are reviewing their cover. Most travel policies do not automatically cover you for claims arising from, or exacerbated by, any existing medical condition unless you disclose that condition and the Insurer agrees to extend the policy to cover the existing condition.

Usually this is completion of a simple questionnaire to enable the insurer to assess the risk and advise you their decision. With an existing medical condition, it is important to identify a date of the first diagnosis. If you recently had a medical procedure e.g. knee replacement, even though you are happy about your current state of health, it is always best to declare the procedure to the insurer. It is better to declare now and be accepted by the insurer prior to commencement of the cover than have to sort a problem out at time of claim.

It is important that you check the policy you intend to purchase and understand the conditions of the policy. Many people make the mistake of not taking out the policy before making that first trip deposit. If you delay, it may reflect on what you can claim.

All Insurance policies require full disclosure of any matter that may influence the insurer. Corporate Travel Policies are much less restrictive than “standard” travel policies, in regard to pre-existing medical conditions, so talk to us about any concerns you have.

Social Media…grounds for termination?

The Fair Work Commission has increasingly been required to review issues raised by the use of social media in the workplace.

The proliferation of, and use of, social media sites, with nearly 70 per cent of Australians on Facebook and around 20 per cent on Instagram and Snapchat, has resulted in employees posting comments which often extend far wider that they had anticipated.

Businesses have begun to realise that social media can be used by their employees in inappropriate ways, which might damage their business.

It isn’t particularly surprising that a number of unfair dismissal claims have ended up before the Fair Work Commission, arising from posts on social media.

 

The following cases provide some useful tips:

  • An employee was sacked after posting that their night out was spoiled by someone having a heart attack.
  • An architect was dismissed for excessively using social media during working hours…allegedly more than 3,000 in a three-month period. It was found that the employee wasn’t given an opportunity to respond prior to the dismissal and was found to have been unfairly dismissed.
  • An employee posted a crude and threatening Facebook rant on his home computer outside of working hours and while he had blocked the fellow employee who was the subject of the rant, other employees read the post. It was found that the action of the employee amounted to serious misconduct and the dismissal stood. Although not naming the employer when posting comments about their boss, the dismissal was upheld on the basis that anyone who knew the employee would know that the comment related to their workplace.
  • Photos of employees planking in dangerous positions resulted in dismissal

The old saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, no longer applies and with virtually everyone with a mobile phone and people connected 24/7, nothing goes “unseen” and problems which previously would have been left at work when everyone goes home, now follow people home after work, which can lead to social media bullying and employees venting their frustration.

Nevertheless, employees have a right to free speech and privacy, so there must be a legitimate connection to the workplace and the conduct must damage the reputation of the business.

The Fair Work Commission has however, confirmed that a social media policy is a legitimate exercise of a business power to protect the security and reputation of their business…but it is vital that the business has a social media guideline in place, which is clearly communicated to all employees and obtains an acknowledgement that the employee has read and understood it.

Training is an important foundation to effectively enforce your social media policy. The policy should address bullying, cyber bullying and the use of social media… including what behaviour is appropriate and acceptable and what is not. It must also be clear that they will continue to apply, even outside working hours and also make it clear the consequences for failing to comply with it

Employment Contracts

An Employment Contract is an Agreement between an Employer and an Employee that sets out Terms and Conditions of Employment.

A Contract can be in writing or verbal. It’s certainly preferable to be “in writing” because should a dispute occur this will be the information that is relied upon to gain resolution between the “Parties”.

An Employment Contract cannot provide for less than the legal minimum set out in the National Employment Standards (NES). All employees are covered by the NES, regardless of whether they’ve signed a contract. A contract can’t make an employee worse off than their minimum legal entitlements. In some circumstances there are minimum awards, enterprise agreements or other registered agreements that may apply.

When setting out the Terms of Employment it’s prudent to include -:

  • Annual Base Salary
  • Superannuation
  • Minimum Hours of Work
  • Additional Benefits

As suggested above when providing a “Job Offer” benefits such as motor vehicles, mobile telephones, car parking, job sharing, working from home etc. should all be outlined together with maximum costings attached so there is a full understanding by all parties.

The more well-informed and equipped an employee is the more likely they are to perform their role better. It’s also prudent to sit down with future or new employees to discuss the Employment Contract and obtain

their feedback or questions so that there may then be no ambiguity going forward.

In the large majority of situations it’s best to consult a Lawyer who specialises in Contract Law so that the document then becomes Legally binding. Source(s) used: National Employment Stand-